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Ubuntu has a home in Ndofaya Print E-mail
27 July 2011

Meadowlands, known to locals as Ndofaya, is testimony to the human spirit. Out of the apartheid wasteland grew great humanity.

BUILT out of frustration and desperation, Meadowlands continues to rise against the odds, positioning itself as one of Soweto’s most established suburbs.


Meadowlands on a quiet day 
Some 50 years ago, black families in Sophiatown were forcibly removed from their homes, their possessions loaded on the back of police trucks and dumped in Meadowlands.


In the years that followed, the vibrant and flamboyant Sophiatown was crushed and removed from the maps of Joburg to make way for Triomf, a residential area for whites only.

The aim was to get blacks as far away from the city as possible, leaving the prime areas for white residences. Meant to destroy, however, this ended up building. As a result of the brutality of apartheid spatial planning, Meadowlands families embraced each other, knowing that they have no one but each other.

In response to the lack of facilities and resources open to them, they developed burial and social schemes, which are still popular to this day. Members meet once a month to socialize, and save money for emergencies and celebrations. The meetings usually take place at the homes of members, rotating from one member to the next.

Today, Meadowlands is one of the few places in Soweto that does not include squatter camps in its landscape. The roads are tarred and there are enough primary and high schools. Residents have access to electricity and clinics. There is a shopping complex and a number of community centres. The suburb is made up mainly of young professionals, pensioners and school goers.

As a result, the suburb is one of the early sleepers during the week. On a weekday, there is usually very little movement after 10pm in Meadowlands, but come the weekend and the people of Ndofaya, as Meadowlands is affectionately known, like to let their hair down and have a bit of fun.


Entrepreneural spirit
The entrepreneural spirit prevails in Ndofaya
It is not unusual in Soweto to spot ladies and gents relaxing and braaiing over a drink or two under an umbrella, with music blasting from a car boot competing with the chatter and laughter of girls. Such small gatherings at parks and street parties are also a norm in Ndofaya.


“Meadowlands is the best place to be. It is better than Dobsonville and it is very safe,” says Bonnie Matsombe, a street vendor in the area. “On weekends we go to parks when we have nothing to do.”

Dorothy Nyembe Park, in Zone 10, is one of Meadowlands’ biggest parks. It was relaunched in 2003 after undergoing a huge makeover. The 3,5ha area now has netball courts, a soccer field, a volleyball court and a basketball court and areas set aside for residents to play chess and morabaraba.

There is also an educational centre where school groups can learn about a wide range of environmental issues from curriculum-based topics such as animal classification, through waste and water, to biodiversity issues. Community programmes at the centre also directly address environmental issues.

The centre also focuses on training people to take action to improve their environment, by growing food gardens and setting up feeding schemes. There are other smaller parks in Meadowlands.

Moni Mosekari, a businesswoman in Zone 9, says her Meadowlands is very peaceful and very hard working. “The people here understand ubuntu and look out and care for each other.”

Mosekari, who specialises in sandblasting, was born and bred in Meadowlands. Her father, who came from Botswana, and her mother, who came from Rustenburg in North West Province, settled in Meadowlands after they married.


Meadowlands is home to the hugely popular IPHC
She went to school in Meadowlands, but moved to Botswana for her tertiary education, “But I still think there is no place like Ndofaya,” she adds.


Her business, Monzarella Glassware, is run from her parents’ garage. It employs three full-time workers and part-time people depending on the workload. The business was started in 2002; it sandblasts glassware, doors, kitchen unit glass, tombstones, and mirrors. It also does car branding and T-shirt printing.

Mosekari explains her love of Meadowlands: it is because the people are not ones to wait for hand outs; but they are ambitious and hard working.

This work ethic and money-making drive can be seen in the many informal fast food joints in the suburb, operating from back yards and mobile containers. These places are usually crowded on Friday evenings and at month end.

Hair salons and barber shops operating from street corners and backyard shacks are also popular. Two guys from Mozambique, who only identify themselves as George and Zoo, work at one of these informal salons.

George has been in South Africa since 2003. He has learned to speak Zulu and a bit of Sotho, the languages dominating in Soweto. He feels safe in Meadowlands, George says; he feels like part of the community because the people there received him well and protected him and his friend during the 2008 xenophobic attacks.


Children frolic in a park
Children frolic in a park
While he misses home, he has learned to accept that Meadowlands is his second home. His parents, wife and children are still in Mozambique, and he sees them once a year when he goes to visit for the December holidays.


Ndofaya is also the home of the founder of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), Reverend Frederick Modise. His house is painted in the colours of the church, and stands boldly on Reverend Frederick S Modise Street in Zone 3.

The road was officially renamed on 14 September 2009 – a significant milestone in the church’s calendar as it was founded on that day in 1962. Modise started the church after a miraculous healing from an illness that doctors could not diagnose. It continues to grow long after his death.

During the Festive and Easter holidays, Meadowlands comes alive when the township hosts the KwaMahlobo Games, a soccer tournament pitting teams from around Gauteng. The games take place at the KwaMahlobo Grounds in Zone 10. Over the years, the soccer tournaments have produced a number of quality premier soccer league players like Reneilwe Letsolonyane.

The games offer free and exciting entertainment, as well as an unbeatable way to build community spirit.

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Last Updated on 03 August 2011